TOWSON, Md. — Some Muslim parents, students and community activists are lobbying for the Baltimore County school board to close schools on their two most important religious holidays.
If the schools are closed Christmas and the Jewish High Holy Days, the group argues, it is only fair that they close on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as well.
But amid calls for fairness and cultural sensitivity, others said closing schools on Muslim holidays would set a precedent the system would have to follow for any number of other religious and ethnic groups.
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About 30 people attended a school board meeting last week to advocate closing schools on the holidays, whose dates – like those of Jewish holidays – change every year because they are determined by a lunar calendar. School officials said they have also received about 40 e-mails and faxes on the subject.
Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting and reflection. Eid al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice, celebrates the Quranic account of God letting Abraham sacrifice a sheep instead of his son.
“The kids want to be like everyone else, and they feel they are not,” said Haider Thamir, a financial adviser from Cockeysville whose children attend Dulaney High School and Warren Elementary School.
District officials do not have figures on the number of Muslim students enrolled in Baltimore County schools because they are not allowed to ask for students’ religious affiliation.
Advocates say closing the schools on Muslim holidays would help promote cultural sensitivity and understanding.
But a community activist said she would rather see the school system continue to give Muslim students excused absences.
“Our students are already inundated with enough time off,” said Ella White Campbell, who is chairwoman of the school superintendent’s minority achievement advisory council. “There needs to be more time in school. … It sets a very dangerous precedent for the system.”